Fallout Over Yahoo’s Employee Telecommuting Ban Continues

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For those of us who work on projects related to WordPress development, promotion, and innovation, the concept of telecommuting has become somewhat second-nature. Theme authors, designers and content generators routinely work from home (or from other remote locations) due to convenience. As a matter of fact, several well-known premium theme companies (along with WordPress.com parent company Automattic), offer telecommuting as an employee perk and also as a realistic recruitment solution for top-level talent worldwide.

Marissa Mayer Yahoo CEO

Enter Marissa Mayer (pictured), the first-ever “pregnant and under 50″ individual to head a Fortune 500 company – Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ:YHOO). By shattering the proverbial glass ceiling, Mayer has garnered an impressive amount of support among business people and analysts who view the appointment as a move in the right direction. Yahoo, which is based in Silicon Valley, named Mayer its CEO last July in an effort right the struggling tech giant’s financial ship.

Apparently, the move has worked. Since Mayer took over, Yahoo’s stock has increased approximately 50% from $15.60 per share in July 2012 to $22.80 on Wednesday afternoon, March 6th, 2013. Of course, the stock’s price is nowhere near the pre dot-com bubble bursting days of 1999 (when shares were valued as high as $108); but a 50 percent Return On Investment over a seven-month period is indeed something to “write home about” in today’s economic environment.

Leaked Internal Memo

On Friday, February 22nd, a handful of current Yahoo employees leaked an internal memo issued by the firm’s Human Resources department that will effectively ban all telecommuting for company personnel beginning June 1st. The document, which has since been broadcast on every major news outlet in the country, states that “some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings. Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home.”

The following Monday, the story aired on mainstream morning shows and received an enormous response from both TV viewers and social media posters. TheBump.com Editor Carley Roney told TODAY that the policy change sends an “anti-parent, anti-female” message to staff. Overall feedback focused mainly on the benefits related to working at home versus an employer’s right to cut expenses.

While remote office environments coupled with cloud-capable applications have paved the way for reduced corporate overhead and greatly enhanced employee flexibility in the tech industry, many workers still hold traditional business office positions that mandate personal attendance. A large percentage of our readers would define an “impromptu team meeting” as a Skype video conference call that could include collaborating members from all parts of the world. However, there are others who prefer the structured Monday thru Friday work schedule; which allows for more face-to-face opportunities for sharing ideas.

The True Reason Behind The Ban

Whatever your thoughts are on the pros and cons of working from home, Mayer’s decision is most likely tied to rampant rumors of substantial layoffs as Yahoo edges closer to issuing termination papers to hundreds of its 11,500 employees (source: Yahoo Investor Relations). If disgruntled personnel opt to quit and take similar positions with competing companies such as Google, severance package costs could be curtailed.

Opening the door so exiting talent doesn’t stub its toe on the way out may or may not result in a wise, profit-generating long term decision. Although economic conditions are dire in some global sectors, skilled tech specialists (especially those with cloud computing experience) are currently at a premium. Yahoo’s future endeavors could rely heavily on New Business; a process that normally incurs massive expenditures related to hiring and training qualified staff.

Richard Branson Chimes In

Sir Richard Branson

On Tuesday, world-renowned entrepreneur Richard Branson (pictured) criticized Mayer’s decision. Referring to the move as “old school thinking,” the Virgin CEO wrote that the telecommunting ban is “one of the dumbest ideas I’ve ever heard.” He went on to say, “The key for me is that in today‚Äôs world I do not think it is effective or productive to force your employees one way or another. Choice empowers people and makes for a more content work force.”

While a considerable amount of Yahoo telecommuters may be tidying up their resumes and moving elsewhere, it’s unlikely (in this author’s opinion) that the global trend toward remote working environments will change.

Comments (1)

  • Comment by Jack Godot
    Jack Godot

    Every situation is different, no matter how many pundits try to co-opt this decision as a teaching moment or to claim some philosophical high ground.
    The bottom-line is the stock is up.
    BTW Yahoo isn’t banning working from home. It’s banning being based at home. Also many of these people who had been working at an office that closed should be thankful that Yahoo didn’t fire them then.